Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tearing Down the O'Brien Building

The Robert O'Brien Building in downtown Dover is being torn down to make room for an expansion of the Kent County Courthouse. This is just up the block from my office and is almost always on my lunchtime walk.

I've been collecting photos of the deconstruction process when I can. There's a pair of large yellow tracked things. One with a front-end loader on the front and the other with a high-powered pincer-claw that is used to grab steel I-beams and yank them out of the building. This after the exterior brick was shaved away and the internal stuff scraped-out.

At lunch today the building was about a third gone. Another big chuck was missing at closing time this afternoon. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Just What Did Nancy Say to Upset Those Guys?

Some among the Congressional republicans are blaming a speech by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the failure of the republicans to deliver the votes they needed to pass the $700 billion bailout plan. Apparently Speaker Pelosi, like many of us out here on Main Street, blames the problems of Wall Street at least in part on George Bush:
Pelosi had said that the $700 billion price tag of the measure “is a number that is staggering, but tells us only the costs of the Bush Administration’s failed economic policies — policies built on budgetary recklessness, on an anything goes mentality, with no regulation, no supervision, and no discipline in the system.”
Those are fairly strong words, but not out of line for politics and politicians. And was that all she said? I took a look at the full text of the speech, as posted on Talking Points memo this afternoon. That bit there? That's the second paragraph.

I yanked the text over into Wordle and created this word-cloud of the 75 most frequently used words in that text. I'm seeing "Street. Financial. American crisis. Recovery legislation. Must."

As I read it, she smacks the Wall Street folks around much more thoroughly than she does the President or the Republicans.

The corporate CEOs whose companies will benefit from the public's participation in this recovery must not benefit by exorbitant salaries and golden parachute retirement bonuses.

Our message to Wall Street is this: the party is over. The era of golden parachutes for high-flying Wall Street operators is over. No longer will the U.S. taxpayer bailout the recklessness of Wall Street.

This is the one thing that both right- and left-wing folks I've talked to agree about right now. (That and the delightful fact that the Cowboys were beat yesterday)

So. Was Nancy Pelosi so horrible? I don't think so.

I thought Barney Frank was very funny about this this afternoon:
Frank remarked on the numerical "coincidence" that the number of "deeply offended Republicans" who voted no equalled exactly the number needed to reach the 218 votes in favor to pass the bill.

"I'll make an offer," he added. "Give me those 12 people's names and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them and tell them what wonderful people they are and maybe they'll now think about the country."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Morning with the Newspapers #132

In this morning's News Journal, I find an article (Georgetown DelTech to offer theater productions) that describes an effort by Delaware Technical and Community College to bring regular theater productions to the stage on their Georgetown campus.

The goal, said Vice President and Campus Director Ileana Smith, is to get area residents into a habitat of supporting the arts and to "think about this theater as a place to come."

Smith said campus leaders believe the time is right for a theater venue in central Sussex County. Many new residents in nearby Bridgeville, Millsboro and Lewes moved to Sussex County from larger communities with vibrant culture and arts scenes, Smith said.

While I applaud this idea -- I'm in favor of theater, after all -- I do have to point out that Georgetown already is home, and has been for many years, to the Possum Point Players and their Possum Hall theater. In fact, Possum Hall is less than two miles from DelTech (as the Google bot suggests that the crow drive).

I used to be closely involved with the Possums. In the days before kids, the Lovely Karen and I were both a part of that group. Our first date was dinner at Adriatico (when it was on First Street at Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth) followed by a Possum performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

That performance was at (wait for it) Delaware Technical and Community College, in the theatre now proposed for the addition of theater programs.

In those days, before the refurbishing and expansion of Possum Hall, the Possums did their larger productions at Del Tech. And we were a part of many.

Karen, a talented flautist, was a member of the orchestra for almost all of the Possum musicals (back when they used real orchestras). I can act and can fake my way through a song as long as I'm in a "character part." And I used to help out backstage for shows that lacked a suitable "Mike part." I did props, or sound, or helped shove things around on-stage between acts.

Between us, we were involved in The Good Doctor, Wait Until Dark, the Sound of Music, Nunsense, The Crucible, Oklahoma, The 1940's Radio Hour, The Man of La Mancha, Big River, and I'm sure there are others that I am now forgetting.

The week before I proposed, in 1987, we helped out at a Possum Kid's production of The Emperor's New Clothes. It was the last show of that production, so we stayed behind to help tear down the set. I wasn't paying proper attention and put a foot down in the wrong spot. I twisted my ankle over so severely that I pulled the connector-thingy (tendon?) that connects shin to foot completely out of my foot. Technically, it was a bone break. So I proposed on crutches. Never underestimate the power of sympathy.

When the Possums did Nunsense, I was the props master and Karen, then large with Colleen, did sound effects and turned pages for the pianist. Nunsense is a show-within-a-show show. The idea is that a group of Nuns is putting on a performance, so anyone seen onstage should be wearing a Nun's habit. As the show started, the stage manager (our friend Nina) and I would be out on the stage, setting props for the Nun's "stage." At that point I had only a mustache, so I kept my back turned to the audience until the very last second, when I would spin around, face the audience just long enough for my facial hair to register, and then exit, stage left. Those were the easiest (and somehow most satisfying) laughs of my stage career.

We also have a photo of the two of us from that show-- both in Nun drag, Karen clearly quite pregnant, me mustachioed. We like to haul it out to scare the girl's friends when they visit.

So, when I see a story about how the fine folks at DelTech are going to rescue a culturally benighted Georgetown by bringing in theater, I bristle. Just a little. The fact is that Sussex County does not really lack culture. You just have to seek it out. You just have to support it in any way you can.

We have the Possums. We have the Sussex Ballet (where our efforts, and those of our children, now center). We have the Rehoboth Summer Children's Theatre, whose Board I served on for many years and whose web site I still manage. There is a new theater group working in the old Epworth Church building in Rehoboth Beach. There are good programs in the local high schools. And there is the Southern Delaware School of the Arts.

There are fine music programs all summer at the Bethany and Rehoboth bandstands. There is the Rehoboth jazz festival and the Rehoboth film festival. There is a music festival in Dewey Beach. There are weekly concerts in Stango Park all summer in Lewes.

We have culture. We just have to do a better job of supporting it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Anyone in Seattle?

We need someone to attend this concert. Magpie Killjoy is my nephew, an artist and musician and a nice, if intentionally scary-looking sometimes, tall young man.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Bi-Partisan Yard

I found this mix of yard signs on a property in Lewes on a walk with the lovely Karen yesterday. It was nice to see a bipartisan mix of support in one yard:
  • Joe Booth, (incumbent) Republican candidate for the local state House seat.
  • Barack Obama, Democratic Presidential Nominee (and, I hope to God, our next President).
  • Joan Deaver, Democratic candidate for the local County Council seat.
  • Jack Markell, Democratic candidate for (and likely the next) Governor of Delaware.
  • Gary Simpson, (incumbent) Republican candidate for the local state Senate seat.
I think this shows the power of incumbency in a small place. Of these five races, only two aren't "open" seats; these are the ones for which this property owner is supporting Republicans. As a side note, I think at least one of the Republican incumbents here is probably worthy of re-election.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Magnificent, if Minute, Obsession

This is just cool. Dan Hanna has taken two pictures of himself every day for 17 years. Two photos, 180 degrees apart with his head aligned with the position of the sun. All very carefully set up.

The result is a time-lapse film of his face, head, and hair over time. The music is a nice touch.

I picked this up, by the way, via the MAKE Magazine blog, which has led me to some neat stuff lately.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pete duPont Taken to Task

Hendrik Hertzberg, of the New Yorker, takes a few shots at former Delaware Governor Pete du Pont on his blog today. In "Pete du Pointless," Hertzberg reacts to du Pont's op-ed in the News Journal in defense of the electoral college.

The title is a slightly cheap shot, as is this bit:
You may or may not remember Pierre S. du Pont IV, the high-born former Delaware governor who briefly ran for President in 1988 under the plain vanilla—well, French vanilla—name of Pete du Pont.
The rest of the piece, however, is a fairly workmanlike deconstruction of du Pont's arguments against the idea of a National Popular Vote plan to replace the electoral college. DuPont trots out an impressive herd of statistics. Hertzberg hobbles, harnesses or stampedes them, one by one.

I don't pretend to the same level of electoral erudition as these two, but I can't help thinking that there is some merit in simply electing the president based on which candidate gets the most votes. The way we've been doing it has had decidedly mixed results lately.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Eighth Golf Game of 2008

I should probably call this "game 7.5 of 2008." I had a chance to play 9 holes yesterday afternoon after a long day of meetings at the NSGIC Conference. A group of us set out to try to get 9 holes in before the sun sank too far down past the mountains for us to see anything.

It was a lovely evening. To the south, the view was of clear skies and a few puffy clouds. To the west, there were angry clouds backed up against high mountains.

We played a scramble format, in two-person teams. My partner and I did not win. It was not his fault. But we had fun and saw some great sights.

We were on the Keystone Ranch Course, which sits in a high mountain valley (about 9,000 feet). It features some remarkable changes in altitude, including a hole towards which you seem to be hitting off the edge of the world.

By the time we reached the eighth hole, it was almost too dark to play. On the approach to an elevated green, I hit what may have been the most solid 9-iron shot of my life. I couldn't see it, but it felt and sounded perfect. And it would have been, too, except for the extra distance you get when you play at altitude. I know that I flew over the green only because of the clear "ping" of the ball hitting the cart path and ricocheting off into the wild-west brush.

The ninth hole at Keystone Ranch is a long drive across a lake. It was almost full dark, so we pulled out a set of glow-in-the-dark balls that one of the fellows had brought. On being struck, the balls light up red and look like tracer rounds flying down-range. I hit a solid three-wood but aimed it wrong; I went for the green over the wide part of the lake and not the shorter lay-up over less water. My ball almost made it, but hit the water once, bounced, and sank.

After we drove around the water, we all four walked down to the water's edge to watch my red, glowing ball light up about a foot of clear mountain water just over an iron's length off shore. It was as if the moon had sunk back down into the lake.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

In Colorado

I'm in Colorado, at a place called Keystone, for the week-long annual NSGIC Conference. NSGIC -- the National States Geographic Information Council -- is a national organization of people who, like me, work to try to facilitate the use and sharing of geospatial data (the stuff behind Google Maps and Earth) in the 50 states. We have state representatives, private sector partners, and federal partners and each fall we come together for an over-stuffed week of meetings and discussion and planning. I've been blogging these meetings for several years.

I flew in on Saturday morning, landing at about noon, local time, at Denver International. That's the main terminal in the picture at right. A very cool building. We had set up a simple Google Docs spreadsheet to track who was going to have a rental car. Those of us without cars used that to try to find rides out to Keystone, an hour or so west of Denver. I met up with my ride, a gent from Georgia, and several other sets of drivers and riders and we caravanned through the mountain passes together.

The Keystone lodge itself is quite lovely, but it is at about 9,200 feet. I live about 20 feet above sea level, so I'm taking things a bit easy to try to acclimate myself. The main recommendation we hear is to drink plenty of water. I bought a liter bottle on the ride out and have dutifully emptied and refilled it several times.

I expect to get some interesting pictures here, I'll add them to my now thin Colorado set over the week. NSGIC is famous for marathon meetings (we start, in fact, with a Board meeting in a little bit), but I will need to step out and stretch my legs from time to time. I also hope to sneak-in nine holes of golf at some point. Otherwise, we start with breakfast meetings and carry through to evening committee meetings -- sometimes until 11 at night.

I've said it before: these people are nuts. But I'm glad to have been a part of this community for the past ten years and I am proud to serve on the NSGIC Board of Directors.

It's almost 9:00 a.m. Sunday. We start in an hour. I'd best get my Board agenda out and get to work.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Labor Day Sunday

We spent the Sunday of our Labor Day weekend at North Bethany with my folks, my older sister Margaret and two of her grown kids, and my brother and his lovely wife and brood. And their large, happy, friendly, rambunctious, overgrown puppy of a black lab, Titan. (He has grown a good deal since last summer.)

Matt and his two girls are geocache enthusiasts. Their plan for the early afternoon was a walk down the beach into Bethany Beach proper to find three caches. Matt's wife Lynn, having run for what I calculate as about 20 miles that morning, was going to relax for a bit. Christina and I went along for the walk; I'm always interested in a chance to look for new things to photograph.

The beach is usually fairly generous with subject matter; on a crowded beach, though, a middle-aged man with a camera generally should keep his focus on seabirds, waves and things out to sea.

We were entertained on the walk by several pods of dolphins fishing and bouncing, apparently happily, just off shore. I tried, but failed, to get a decent photograph of them.

Once in Bethany, we were successful finding two of the three geocaches. The third was somewhere under the boardwalk, an area now off-limits to help protect new dunes that have been built. One, found by the Bethany Beach Bandstand, was what one might call a "micro-geocache."

When we got back up the beach, we found our friends Andy and Lynn had brought their girls along for some beach time. We had a pleasant few hours of surfside conversation, a chance to jump into the ocean, and a clear, sunny afternoon.

After a taco dinner that couldn't be beat, we had cake and ice cream and sang happy birthday to Margaret about six times. Her birthday is still a week away, but when you have a chance to sing to your sister you take it.

It was a find Labor Day Sunday, spent just the way a holiday should be spent; with friends and family.